I occasionally plan stories and set a goal I have to accomplish before I let myself write them. Gradesaver is my reward for having completed five math lessons in the space of a week – with no mistakes at all.
Now, there is a problem with this story. I couldn’t for the life of me find a satisfactory ending for this. So I cut it off pretty tidily, but if you can think of a way of ending this – without the Padawans leaving, I might add! – let me know in the comments.
Although the Padawans of the Jedi Order faced grave and deadly peril so regular a basis that, as one Senator drily commented, “They consider a nest of gundarks an amusing diversion” and joked about their narrowest escapes, they were still children, and suffered many of the more orthodox pitfalls of childhood as well. One such pitfall was math.
Learned, logical, and pitiless in the face of can’t, Master Chopra had taught this subject to decades of the younger generation, and had dome so for years. As a result, he was no longer an easy man to surprise, having seen it all from stellar, to mediocre, to “You will hit the ground when you do” as the cocky answer to a problem regarding the gravitational field of Sullust. Curiously, the Padawan now before him was the apprentice of the headstrong boy who had given that answer, long since grown and knighted. Time was a peculiar thing, flowing in such regular patterns over the years.
Making another sweeping mark in red ink across an arduously-worked problem, Chopra glanced up from the book to meet the anxious eyes of the Padawan fidgeting on the far side of his cluttered desk.
“It’s just not your day, is it?” A few problems later, he scribed the total score in precise, upright characters at the top of the math test, and handed it over to the Padawan’s astonished perusal.
“Make no mistake, I will be talking to your Master about this. This is unusual even for you. Where is he?”
“In – in the Archives,” muttered the hapless student, and fled the math classroom as soon as was decorous.
In the Archives, the man he sought proved easy to find, sitting with his knees drawn up like a youngling, on the floor by one of the tall windows in the upper level. A holobook of history lay active beside him, but he was gazing dreamily out the window instead of reading.
Master Chopra coughed. “Obi-Wan. Do you have a moment?”
“A few. Math tests? The kids did so abysmally you had to tell me in person?”
Refusing to be drawn, Chopra pointed out with considerable dignity, “Unlike some, I trust my students to be honest with their Masters. It’s not abysmal as such, but I am worried.”
“Have a seat.” Obi-Wan tapped the broad windowsill. “What is it?”
“Ben has never been a great mathematician – it must be a family trait – but over the last six weeks he’s dropped from a besh-minus average, which is respectable but not good – to a low dorn, which really is bad.”
“What is it: inattention, or trying and failing, or failing to try?”
“I haven’t finished. Nasriel -”
Obi-Wan became incredulous. “Nasriel’s grades are slipping?”
“No. She’s never make lower than a besh, and that was two years ago after missing three classes in a row on mission. Mid-aurek level is normal for her. But one hundred percent in six weekly tests in a row?”
Sitting up straighter, Obi-Wan said, dangerously soft, “You think she’s cheating. Have you confronted her with it? Or did you come to me first?”
“Will you please let me finish before jumping to conclusions? I know she isn’t cheating. There are ways of checking. I’ve also talked to some of the other class instructors, and what I’ve observed isn’t confined to math. I do think there is a serious problem, and I’ll tell you what I think it is.”
The Kenobi quarters, off in a far corner of the east residential wing, had seen their fair share of joy and heartbreak, training both orthodox and… less orthodox, stormy quarrels, reckless stunts, and the workings-out of a hundred dilemmas begun elsewhere, often on other planets entirely. Compared to the long and tumultuous history of these five rooms, tonight was astonishingly quiet.
Ben had shifted the ever-present litter of literature that covered the table into neat piles ranged against the wall by the bookcase: Obi-Wan’s, Nasriel’s, his own, and Council paperwork. Now, he sat on one chair with a tidy handful of pencils scattered over a corner of the table, drawing an airspeeder unlike anything mortal eyes had ever seen. A breeze from the open balcony door ruffled the edges of his paper.
Nasriel stood alone on the balcony, watching the passing traffic and with one finger absently stroking the leaves of a pot plant beside her. When Obi-Wan entered, she looked up, and stepped back through the transparisteel door to the main room, her hair tangled from the stiff breeze outside that blew clouds across the gathering dusk.
“Hello, Master Obi-Wan. You’re home early. Is something wrong?”
Ben looked at him narrowly. “Yup. Bad wrong. Can’t you tell? It’s…” he traced a line across his own forehead, “That line, just there. Only shows when it’s at least one step worse than Master Yoda yelling at him.”
“Nasriel, Ben, listen. Whatever happens in the next few days – whatever happens – I want you to know this. I’m fond of you both, and you’re both important to me. I wouldn’t willingly lose either of you for worlds.”
“Where’s this going?” Nasriel asked suspiciously. “You’re never this nice.”
“Master Chopra came and found me this afternoon. He wanted to talk about your academic grades. He thinks there’s a problem.”
“Ah… yeah.” Ben set down his pencil. “I was meaning to tell you about that when you got home. Is it really bad enough he came to you about it?”
“Sit down, Nasriel. You’re involved too. Apparently your scores are through the ceiling, and Ben’s are through the floor, and he’s worried about both of you.”
“If you’re about to accuse me of cheating, Master,” snapped Nasriel, “hadn’t Ben better leave?”
“No. No, I’m not. But Master Chopra thinks unusual patterns in grade averages indicate something unusual elsewhere. In short, he thinks I’ve taken on more than I can handle and you two are suffering for it. I think he could be right. Two Padawans, and the Council, and the war? What was I thinking? It’s not fair on you, and I’m sorry.”
“I was overworking on my studies to try and prove I was all right,” Nasriel said unsteadily. “Master C’s been looking sideways at us for weeks. Guess it didn’t work. Foz is still in the Temple. I can ask tomorrow, he’ll know somebody looking for a partner.”
“Shut up. Nobody’s going anywhere. We just have to find a way of making this work. I can cut back on Council commitments to make more time for you, that’ll help for a start.”
“I’ll tell Telc I’m not up for any stunts beyond the bare minimum, so I’m not wasting any time you’ve got to spare,” Nasriel offered.
“That would be a start. Chopra says he’s giving us three weeks to work something out, because he supposes with the Order being as it is we haven’t much choice. Then he’s going to Yoda to ask that we be split up.”
“We’ll work it, Master.” Ben wore an expression of determination beyond his years. “We’ll think of something.”
So. What happens next?